‘Everything just fell apart’: Chabad Tokyo prepared for no-crowd Olympics

“We expected the Olympics to be a larger event, not to mention it goes on for three weeks straight. But now everything just fell apart,” the Chabad rabbi said.

By Josh Plank, World Israel News

Rabbi Mendi Sudakevich, head of the Tokyo branch of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, was forced for the second time to cancel his plans of hosting thousands of Jews from Israel and around the world for the Olympic Games, Ynet reported.

Japan announced earlier this month that the games, which were originally scheduled for the summer of 2020 and then postponed until 2021, would take place this year under a COVID-19 state of emergency and without spectators.

“Until a few weeks ago, the issue was still up in the air,” said Sudakevich.

“At the airport, it took about an hour and a half until you got a permit to enter the country. Now everything is going crazy,” he said.

Sudakevich and his family made extensive preparations to ensure that the large number of Israelis they hoped to host during the games would be comfortable, preparing kosher feasts and hiring a large staff to cater to guests.

“It was mainly about food. Originally, we started renting out places near the synagogue, and we organized a team that could serve a large audience,” he said.

Sudakevich, who has headed Chabad Tokyo for the past 20 years, recalled hosting around a thousand visitors during a football game one Chanukah.

“We expected the Olympics to be a larger event, not to mention it goes on for three weeks straight. But now everything just fell apart,” he said.

Sudakevich said that despite calls for the Olympics to be completely cancelled, there was still hope that the games would take place as planned.

“The media was against the games, and a lot of pressure was exerted in an attempt to cancel the Olympics,” he said.

This marks the second time Sudakevich’s preparations have been cancelled in disappointment.

For the rescheduled 2020 games, Chabad Tokyo had planned to create a temporary Jewish center in the Olympic Village complete with a full schedule of Shabbat and weekday services.

“We will have parallel activities going on at the Chabad House at the same time,” Sudakevich told Chabad.org in January of last year.

Looking forward to the expected crowds while recognizing the amount of work ahead, Sudakevich said, “It is going to be a crazy month. Good, but crazy.”